Online Fundraising
July 7, 2021

5 Tips for Running Successful Online Charity Raffles

Online raffles or lotteries are a quick and easy way to raise funds for your nonprofit. During the pandemic many nonprofits and charities seized the opportunity to go digital with their fundraising initiatives. The requirement of less staff and resources combined with the added benefit of engaged donors, led nonprofits to witness incredible returns.

But first, what is an online charity cash raffle?

Online raffles (also known as electronic raffles) use computers/technology for the sale of tickets, winner selection, and prize distribution. Popular raffles such as the 50/50 and Catch the Ace are commonly held to raise funds for charities. It can be described as a type of gambling competition—for a good cause—in which people obtain digital numbered tickets, each of which has a chance of winning a cash prize. The winnings are usually a percentage of the total funds collected through sale of tickets. The remaining amount goes to the nonprofit or charity organizing the event. One of the main reasons that makes online charity raffles so attractive is that donors get a chance to win money while supporting a cause.

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Tips for running a successful online raffle

1. Ensure you have a license to run the raffle

Raffles and lotteries are regulated events in most jurisdictions across the United States and Canada, which means you must apply for a license to be able to run them. In Canada, it is illegal to run a raffle without license and only religious or charitable organizations can apply for one. Rules vary by province; the provincial Alcohol and Gaming Commission websites are good starting points for research on the rules, regulations and application process. In the U.S., many states allow online raffles in some shape or form, with a couple of states such as Utah and Hawaii having very strict laws. Rules and requirements vary by state; you can check with your state’s Attorney General office for the latest regulations.

Before you submit your application for a license, you should have definitive information on the type of raffle you intend to run (such as 50/50 or Catch the Ace), the price of the ticket, prize to be awarded to the winner, raffle schedule, and the technology solutions provider.  

Related: Regulatory Guidance for U.S. States and Canadian Provinces and Territories

2. Build a strong marketing plan

Aggressive promotions backed by a strong marketing plan are key to running a successful raffle or lottery online. Expand your reach using creative social media promotions and posts with a clear call-to-action (CTA) while highlighting the cause. Be consistent with the messaging, look and feel of posts across all channels (website, email, and social). This is a good strategy to not only help you increase sales but also to grow your donor database. Delivering the same CTA in multiple ways will drive sales and deliver results. Paid digital and paid search are good choices as are working with local radio stations, newspapers, and retail and corporate partners.  

Ascend Fundraising Solutions can help you build an impactful marketing plan and guide you every step of the way to ensure you maximize returns. Here’s an example of an Ascend client who saw 592% Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS) by investing $5,000 in paid digital. Their overall lottery sales were 12% higher than their previous best month!

3. Optimize your website for mobile

According to Perficient, in 2020, 61% of visits to U.S. websites were from mobile devices. Globally, that number is over 68%. This growing trend of mobile usage begs marketers to making websites responsive, meaning they should adapt to mobile devices and tablets of varied sizes while offering a seamless user experience with ticket purchases. Have the key CTA (e.g., ‘Buy Now’, ‘Play Now’, ‘Enter to Win’, etc.)  displayed up-front so users don’t have to scroll or search on the site to get to it. ‘Mobile first’ should be your mantra!

4. Test, learn, and iterate

Use clear, well-designed, user-friendly landing pages and emails. Elements such as attractive, eye-catching colors, graphics, and animated ads are known to perform well. Don’t be afraid to A/B test alternatives to find out which option is driving more sales. Mix and match the imagery and graphics to appeal to a broader audience, create a sense of excitement and joy which will in turn help expand your reach. On Facebook, for instance, the CTA ‘Play Game’ has been observed to do three times better than ‘Shop Now’ or ‘Learn More’. Be unique while incorporating best practices. Test, learn, and iterate your campaign to maximize the potential.

5. KISS your emails (KISS = Keep it short and sweet)

Your existing donor database is instrumental to running a successful campaign. For many raffle and lottery programs, returning buyers account for 40–90% of revenue which means that approximately 10–60% of revenue still needs to be filled.

Quick tips for emails:

  • Before you kickstart your email campaign, organize your donor list into relevant segments per your marketing and promotion strategy and be sure to remove those who unsubscribed.
  • Keep your emails short and sweet and easy to action with a ‘Buy Now’ link at the top of email body.
  • Reduce the number of clicks required for the donor to participate or make a purchase.
  • Cadence: One email per week, more on deadline weeks. Remove buyers from repeat emails and add them back in for the final deadline as they tend to buy more then.
  • Call out the jackpot amount and deadline in the email subject.
  • Use a good mix of graphics and text focused on the prize; optimize for various email applications.
  • Exclude ticket prices in email; keep it clean and simple.
  • Allow lots of white space for your key message(s) to stand out.  

Related: 8 Email Marketing Tips for Nonprofits to Inspire Giving and Attract Donors

The shift to digital fundraising brought on by the pandemic is expected to continue, even when in-person events return. Staying up to date on current trends, technology and marketing best practices in the charitable giving space will ensure you are set to maximize your fundraising potential.

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